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Preble County project among several local bids getting America 250 funding

two story log house seen through snowfall with snow covered ground and bare trees
David Clippinger
1813 Henry Horn, Lewisburg Log House which now resides on the Preble County Historical Society and Nature Reserve Property in Eaton, Ohio.

Did you know the famous Henny Penny chicken fryer used in restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, Chick-fil-a and more was invented just north of Cincinnati in Preble County, Ohio? That's one fun fact among many the Preble County Historical Society will be including in a new project that's part of the nation's 250th anniversary celebration.

The Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial (America 250-Ohio) this week awarded nearly $400,000 in funding for 23 projects across the state aimed at marking the nation's semiquincentennial and celebrating Ohio. Five local organizations are included on the list of recipients:

  • ArtWorks
  • Green Umbrella
  • Preble County Historical Society
  • Voyageur Media Group, Inc.
  • Warren County Foundation/19 Services

RELATED: Ohio's semiquincentennial commission issues first batch of celebration recommendations

"We're super excited," says Lisa White, Preble County Historical Society executive director of business, marketing and education. "The project that we are calling Preble 250 is a way to promote and preserve the history of our county."

Just north of Butler County, Preble County borders Indiana and sits along I-70 to the north. It's home to the aforementioned Henny Penny Corporation that makes foodservice equipment, Hueston Woods State Park, and a whole lot of history. For example, White points out, the county was part of the Northwest Territory and has a lot of Native American history. Fort St. Clair in Eaton is one of the last remaining forts that hasn't been developed over, she notes.

"A man named Myron Scott, who was a Camden, Ohio, native, he was responsible for naming the Corvette. His name and legacy is in the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. We take pride in that he was from here. Also, one of the gentlemen who was responsible for inventing Prego spaghetti sauce was also from here."

WMUB listeners will, of course, also note Preble County was home to the inimitable Mama Jazz, aka Phyllis Campbell, who enthralled folks for decades with her jazz radio show on 88.5 FM.

The Historical Society intends to use the grant funding to create a timeline of the county's history that will be printed as an accordion booklet, a historic plaque program to designate certain buildings, and a history trail to lead visitors around the county as they learn about the historical places.

"We were told that our project was definitely in the top of the list for projects because it was so unique, in that we are such a small county. We're a rural county; everywhere you look is farm fields. We have a small community but we are focused on creating this sense of community. It was just a unique and creative project both to engage students and young people and our older audience," White says.

RELATED: Cincinnatian named to Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial

More about the other local projects

America 250-Ohio reports more than 70 organizations submitted projects for potential funding in the first funding cycle. The statewide commission is comprised of 29 members tasked with planning Ohio's part of the USA's 250th anniversary.

The commission, appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine, laid out 43 initial recommendations in 2022.

"We think there's a great opportunity for the under-told stories of Ohio and Ohio history," Todd Kleismit, executive director of the commission, told WVXU. "We're going to be sure that we find ways to engage people — and it doesn't always have to be at the state level; we think there's lots of ways that local communities will engage in this and create opportunities for people at the local level."

Here's a description of the projects proposed by the other four Cincinnati-area grant recipients, as detailed in the commission's release.

Organization: Green Umbrella 
Project: Cincinnati’s Foodshed: An Art Atlas 
Community: Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati’s Foodshed: An Art Atlas showcases and celebrates Ohio’s rich agriculture, food history, people, and innovations by sharing stories through infographics, maps, timelines, and art. The project has 3 sections: past, present (2000-today), and future; and 3 deliverables: a coffee table book, art exhibitions/community events, and a public-facing archive. The Atlas team has worked with 160+ collaborators to share over 120 stories (many untold), illustrating the important role Ohioans have played in shaping regional and national food culture. From the First Americans, European Settlers, the Slave Trade, Disassembly Line, Proctor & Gamble, Fleischmann’s, Kroger, and Manischewitz, to redlining, the modern food movement, role of immigrants, our craft beer revolution, to dreaming of future food systems. Major partners include Green Umbrella’s Food Policy Council, Wave Pool, Cincinnati Museum Center, and the University of Cincinnati’s Office for Innovation and Community Partnerships.

Organization: ArtWorks Cincinnati 
Project: Tuskegee Airmen Mural & Traveling Exhibition 
Community: Cincinnati, Ohio

A two-part mural project, the Tuskegee Airmen Traveling Exhibition and Heilbrun-Leahr Mural will celebrate the 58 Tuskegee airmen from Ohio through both a permanent mural and a traveling exhibit throughout Ohio. The project will draw attention to the inspiring story of John Leahr, who was a black, World War II pilot and Tuskegee airman, and Herb Heilbrun, who was a white, World War II pilot, who formed a friendship late in life after realizing they had been in the same 3rd grade classroom in the Cincinnati neighborhood of North Avondale and had then served in the war together but never met due to segregation and racism in the military. This important and seldom told story will be shared through innovative and compelling public exhibitions created by local, emerging Ohio artists who come from a diversity of backgrounds. Their unique points of view will lend authenticity to the story shared – and amplify the respective communities’ sense of pride.

Organization: Voyageur Media Group, Inc.
Project: “Capturing Life” (1839-1869). Episode One, The Big Picture: A History of Photography in Greater Cincinnati
Community: Cincinnati, Ohio

“Capturing Life” (1839-1869) is the first episode in The Big Picture: A History of Photography in Greater Cincinnati, a three-part documentary series that examines the role of photography in the economic, social and cultural development of Southwest Ohio from 1839 to 1939. “Capturing Life” presents new research about some of the Ohio scientists and daguerreotypists who played a key role in the development of early American photography. The one-hour documentary explores the impact of photography on key events in American history, including the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and post-war industrialization. It reveals how photography helped shape the identity of individuals, families and communities, and how contemporary archivists are working to preserve our region’s visual heritage for future generations.

Organization: Warren County Foundation/19 Services
Project: Preserving History through Video Interviews
Community: Lebanon, Ohio

The Harveysburg Community Historical Society is seeking to preserve historical memories through video interviews. The video Interviews would be of two instrumental women: Urcelle Willis, (who is approaching her mid 90’s) along with Lucy McCarren (who is approaching 100). Both women have personal stories along with historical information that would be imperative to be preserved for historical purposes. The Harveysburg Community Historical Society would like to utilize the services for the interview through ‘History in Your Own Backyard’ for future educational purposes. This program and the services they offer would also include posting the video through various media outlets and websites for the story can be told in a variety of ways, thus spreading the word further of the Harveysburg First Free Black School.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.